11 February, 2012  |   Comment

I’ve liked Valentines day for a long, long time

Painting our Valentines

Oh look, I’ve already written some little ditties to share with you for your Valentine’s Day preparation! Way to go, past me.

10 February, 2012  |   3 Comments

Helen Jane’s Pancake Recipe

Each Valentine’s day, we have a special breakfast.

Pancakes

This has been a tradition from the early days of our marriage, and now that we have children, it seems to be the most practical solution.

We’ll exchange cards and compliments, but for the most part, it’s all about a luxurious breakfast filled with treats.

Treats like strawberry juice.

Cheers!

Treats like pancakes.

Heart-Shaped Pancakes

These are solid pancakes.
I know, I make them enough.

They’re my best and favorite pancake recipe. Not gluten free, vegan, dairy-free or particularly healthy, they are the tastiest, fluffiest, tangiest pancakes I’ve had the pleasure of preparing.

Here’s the thing about pancakes. Making them makes me feel better because I remember this rule every time I make them.

No one’s good right away.

This rule is driven home to me only because the first pancake never works. Ever.

The oil is all weird, the pancake gets too brown or underdone.
Really, the first pancake is a grody old trial pancake.

And that’s totally okay.

You don’t get judged for screwing up your first pancake, it’s expected.
And you’re still worthy of love.
Valentines day pancakes are my favorite.
Just like you.

Helen Jane’s Pancake Recipe

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups self rising flour (regular flour is also okay, you just won’t get the extra BOOST of boostery.)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup whole milk (plus or minus a little, depending on your desired batter thickness)
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions
Before you start stirring, turn a medium sized sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add a tablespoon or two of oil to the pan.

Submerged

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together. I use a whisk.

In a small bowl, whisk the two eggs together. Add the beaten eggs to the dry ingredients along with the one cup of buttermilk. Stir until barely combined (roughly 10 turns around the bowl with a big spoon).

Add the second cup of whole milk. Stir for 10 more turns.
Add the melted butter, stir a few more takes.

Take either a 1/4 cup or a 1/2 cup sized scoop of batter out of the bowl to make your pancakes. I like making them a little smaller so we can have more of them.

When pouring pancakes into the bowl, make the pancakes into a heart shape to show the people you love that you’re willing to do a little extra (for only free dollars!).

When the pancake begins to show bubbles on the top, it’s time to flip the pancake over.

Wait until the newly pan-side of the pancake is smooth and tan and then put on a plate in the microwave until you’re all done using up the batter.

Serve with butter and real maple syrup and strawberries and whipped cream.
If you can, procure your maple syrup from my brother Charlie, who makes his own maple syrup.
(Isn’t that amazing?)

Tablehearts

Pancake freely!

14 February, 2011  |   7 Comments

Strawberry Hearts

I do this every time I cut strawberries but thought it particularly appropriate for Valentine’s day.

Get a strawberry.

Cut the strawberry at a 45° angle from the top right towards the middle.

Remove the knife and cut it at the opposite 45% degree angle toward the strawberry’s middle.

Now your strawberry looks like this from the top.

And this from the side.

Now cut the strawberry in half lengthwise.

And there you have it, two heart shaped strawberry pieces.

Much love to you and yours this Valentine’s day!

10 February, 2011  |   2 Comments

Tasty and dependable egg casserole

Egg casserole

Egg casseroles are one of those triple threat brunch recipes.
They’re inexpensive,
taste great and
can be made ahead of time.
(The J Lo of brunch casseroles!)

And although, unlike J-Lo, egg casseroles aren’t the fanciest dishes on the brunch table, they’re dependable.
The work horse of the brunch table. The tasty work horse of the brunch table.
Wait, this is all coming out wrong.

There are certainly more expensive brunch recipes,
there are also easier brunch recipes.
But you want something tasty and dependable.
And inexpensive.

This recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated’s, “The New Best Recipe.” A book I recommend if you want every. single. recipe you try to turn out tasty and dependable.

Our little family of four ate 3/4 of this casserole. If you’re making it for a crowd, double the ingredients and bake in a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.

Tasty and dependable Egg Casserole

Ingredients:
10 1/2 inch thick slices French or Italian bread from the bakery section of your grocery store
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 medium sweet onion, minced
1 bag baby spinach
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup Sauvignon Blanc (I use Sutter Home)
6 ounces Jack cheese, shredded, 1/2 cup of that reserved
6 large eggs
1 3/4 cups half and half

Directions:
Put the slices of bread out on the counter overnight OR you can bake it for 40 minutes at 225° F, flipping once. When the bread has cooled or you’re ready to build your casserole, butter the slices on one side with 2 tablespoons of the butter and put them aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium heat.
Sauté the onions until you can see through them and they smell good.
(about 3 minutes)

Add spinach and salt and pepper and cook until a gloppy wilty spinachy mess, about 2 minutes.
Take the spinach mixture to a bowl, set it aside with the bread.

Add the wine to the skillet, increase the heat to medium-high, and simmer for 2 minutes.
Set a timer, I’ve been known to burn the wine.

Butter an 8 inch square baking dish with the rest (1 tablespoon) of the butter.
Set half the bread slices buttered-side up in a one layer in the dish. I’ve been known to cut the bread into smaller pieces to make it fit better.

Divide the spinach mixture in half.
Remove 1/2 cup grated cheese from the cheese pile.
Distribute the spinach over the bread and then the cheese.

Arrange the rest of the bread in one layer over the cheese.
Distribute the remaining spinach mixture and another 1/2 cup cheese on the bread.

In a medium bowl (the one you just took the spinach out of), whisk the eggs with the cooked wine, the half and half, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper.

Pour that gloppy egg mixture over the bread and spinach and cheese layers.
Cover the surface with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator overnight.

Ready to cook?
Let’s go.

Remove the dish from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for about a half hour while the oven preheats to 325°. Sprinkle that reserved 1/2 cup cheese over the top.

Put the square baking dish on a large baking pan so that the egg doesn’t slosh on the floor of your oven.
Bake the dish until the edges and middle of the casserole are puffed, slightly browned and sides have pulled away a bit from the dish, about an hour.

Cool on a rack or your stove top for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Tasty, dependable.
Yum.

10 February, 2011  |   Comment

Be Mine, Coffee Cake

Be Mine Coffee Cake

In our Valentine’s breakfast planning, we realized it’s far better to make all the dishes ahead of time than rise at four.

This coffee cake can be made up to two days ahead.
(But I’d recommend the night before. Less temptation that way.)

It’s made in a Bundt pan, which on the surface seems like one more thing you need to find a place for in your kitchen. But let’s just face it, if we’re going to commit to this entertaining thing, we’re going to need to find a place for a Bundt pan.

Coffee cake

I got this recipe from an old copy I have of the Williams Sonoma “Entertaining” cookbook. The version of the Williams Sonoma cookbook in the previous link is all fresh and new, but the version I have is so charmingly 1990s I get lost in the sun dried tomatoes and feta of it all.

Not that there’s sun dried tomatoes and feta in this coffee cake. That’s not recommended.

There are almonds and dried cherries in my version.
And that is recommended.
Highly.

Be Mine, Coffee Cake

Ingredients:
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (or 12 tablespoons) butter, room temperature
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Filling ingredients:
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup chopped almonds (or almonds put in a baggie and smashed to pieces with a hammer [which is my method])
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:
Heat your oven to 350°F.
In the meantime, butter and flour your Bundt pan.

In a small bowl, combine the filling ingredients, the sugar, cinnamon, almonds and cherries. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Toss until combined and set aside.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter on medium until creamy. Slowly add 2 cups sugar and increase the speed to medium high. Beat until smooth — or five minutes. Stop the mixer at minutes two and four to scrape down the bowl.

Slowly add the eggs and beat at medium until the mix has doubled in volume, another 5 minutes. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla, 2 minutes more.

Slow the mixing to a slow speed and add the flour mixture (half and half again) until smooth but no longer than 2 minutes.

Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan and spread out to the edges.

half the batter in the Bundt pan

Sprinkle the almond-cherry-cinnamon-sugar mix over the batter. Spread the remaining batter over the top.

Put in the oven and bake until the top is golden brown and the cake has pulled away from the sides of the pan, 60 minutes.

Set the pan on a rack or your range to cool. Put on a plate and flip out — your trusty Bundt pan should release it just beautifully. Each slice will have almonds and dried cherries and a boatload of flavor.

Promise.

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